First, from the BBC page about today:

Labour say their rivals’ plans amount to a “coalition of cuts for children” as parties try to focus on policy after days of debate about a hung parliament. Labour will attack Lib Dem plans to axe child trust funds and Tory proposals to scale back child tax credits. The Conservatives will focus on the “broken society” saying a “stew” of crime, addiction, anti-social behaviour and poverty affects millions of people.

And the Lib Dems will promise nurses a greater say in how the NHS is run.

Labour: why fiscal arithmetic can be dodged, if only you can assert it loudly enough. Conservatives: hysterical and inaccurate about Broken Britain (can they remember 1995).  A single paragraph explaining what makes me uncomfortable about either of them ruling alone.

And to show my astonishing lack of bias, here is a campaign I cannot join.  Fiscal arithmetic reaches everywhere, and claiming an equity stake on the future earnings of graduates through a time-limited income-contingent deferred-paid fee for an education that tends to provide huge benefits to the individual in the modern economy, is almost ideal right now.

Interesting 4 year old post from Brad DeLong about whether CPI inflation overstates things, because the rapid price falls in the early periods of innovation are missed out.  I think this is another reason why the well-off (like me) think things are improving faster than the badly off; people who have larger disposable incomes experience the trends affecting things like computers, iPods, international travel, etc much more than those at the bottom, and use them to inform experience.  Obvious, I know, but good to see some economic theory behind it!

Aditya Chakraborrty at the Guardian asks if Tories are from Mars, Lefties from Venus.  I find this very interesting in the light of my reading of Sandel, who has reached the point in the book where he insists that our moral choices need to be situated in the ‘story’ we tell of ourselves – favouring an Aristotelian approach in some ways. Here is Aditya:

Conservatives also worry a bit about fairness and harm, according to the Virginia researchers, but they are much more concerned with three other criteria: loyalty to a group (patriotism is traditionally a Conservative virtue), respect for social order and purity. The further out you place yourself on right or left, the less likely you are to share any moral sentiments with someone on the opposite wing

And ends with this observation:

If nothing else, the work of Haidt and his colleagues might encourage British politicians to be more open about the moral choices that go into their policies. Brown bangs on about his “moral compass” but he hardly ever talks explicitly about how that affects his decisions.

As a liberal, I am obviously uncomfortable with ideas of the ‘good’ imposing on politics – but as a human being, I notice it all the time.  Since liberals happen to be humans, I need to reconcile my liking for virtue-approaches with liberalism – some time.  Don’t ask me to today – I have to prepare for a TV thing on banking.

Finally, skimming Rachel Sylvester in the Times, I find this paragraph most significant,. in the light of the Killing the Labour Party debate:

With ten days to go, the election is still extraordinarily open. It is too soon to write off the party that has been in power for the past 13 years. Potentially, however, the situation is even worse for Labour than it was for the Conservatives in 1997 — because there is an increasingly viable alternative to it on the centre Left

There really wasn’t an alternative to the Conservatives on the right; that dream of killing them off was always going to founder on the rock of their 30% core votes (and on how as people get older, I bet they get more Tory.  Someone look it up please. …) But for Labour?  Could someone do some empirical research internationally – is a union-dominated left party always in 2nd or 1st position?   Very curious.   And in the light of my Cif piece yesterday,  isn’t this interesting:

Our performance in the campaign is the symptom of a wider problem — which is that there’s no clear sense of purpose any more,” one former Cabinet minister says.

Forgive her for wheeling out that dreadful Caleidescope-shaken cliche – I’m seeing things differently all the time.


13 thoughts on “Some telling quotes, mostly about the continuing erosion of Labour

  1. “I think this is another reason why the well-off (like me) think things are improving faster than the badly off”

    The strange thing is the US-debate, which slightly got picked up in the UK, was all about how the CPI massively understates the cost-of-living for the poor, not rich, and therefore income inequality and so on was not as bad as expected.

    This speech is quite interesting on that – he doesn’t really look at income levels and inflation expectations, although he does find that the highly education have lower inflation expectations than the poorly educated, albeit by an average only of 0.4% over the ten years from 1997.

    1. I am amazed that they think this effect may impact on the poor more than the rich, though I suppose the latter are more fixated on the price of something being its quality, and therefore losing out on quality improvements accompanying lower prices. I think of Ocean’s Eleven, Andy Garcia with that pricey mobile phone

      thanks for the speech link. 0.4% does not seem very much

  2. “claiming an equity stake on the future earnings of graduates”

    Isn’t that what we do by having progressive income taxes already? High-earning graduates pay a larger share of their income in tax (at least after Lib Dem tax reforms) and more in tax absolutely (already) than lower-earning graduates or non-graduates.

    The weird Labour argument that fees are fair because otherwise poor people’s taxes pay for rich people’s education only works if you are happy to have high rates of tax on the poor like Labour seems to be (20% income tax, 11% soon to be 12% NI contributions, Council Tax, VAT and loss of benefits through means test tapering etc).

    I can quite see the argument that students should share some of their income gains in exchange for getting heavily subsidised education, but surely we do that already, and with less bureaucracy than would be involved in collecting these loans?

    1. But if you take two people on the same income, say £50k, and one of them had the university education, the other didn’t – isn’t this system a subsidy from the one to the other?

      I still think that the vast majority of the gains from a uni education are enjoyed privately, and a heavy chunk of the costs paid socially. Progessive taxation is meant to cover a lot of different things – pure luck, rent seeking, all sorts. When it is a choice the adult can make, like this, I think a more closely aligned way of relating beneficiaries and payers seems much better to me.

      1. I don’t think it would be fair to say that “the vast majority of the gains from a uni education are enjoyed privately”, considering that a well-educated populace is vital for a vibrant economy and a healthy citizenry.

        And if a “heavy chunk of the costs paid socially” already, why not have all of the costs paid socially?

        I also don’t think it is right to think of going to university as just a choice. I mean, yes, it is a “choice”, but do we really want to start thinking about students as pure consumers?

  3. re: the well-off experiences price declines more than the poor … some researchers seem to think the opposite, and that prices have fallen faster for things that poor people spend most of their money on.

    Broda and Romalis is the reference, but there’s a nice short essay on price indices by Angus Deaton here:

    [I really don’t like how Broda & Romalis interpret their findigs, or the conclusions drawn from it, but that’s another matter. ]

  4. “is a union-dominated left party always in 2nd or 1st position?”

    Not in Canada: the Liberals are the main centre-left party (though facing an increasing challenge from the more left-wing New Democrats). Nor in Finland: the Centre Party (probably centre-left by British standards) are larger than the Social Democrats, and in fact usually the largest party full stop. The Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party (the official opposition though in a right mess over corruption scandals) is a member of the Liberal International.

    But I think the twentieth century did see a general trend towards social democratic domination of the “non-conservative” part of politics. Maybe this election will be seen as a turning point in the other direction?

    In many European countries where the liberals are right-of-centre (e.g. Germany and Sweden) there has been a trend of increasing support for Greens and decreasing support for Social Democrats, which might indicate that a more liberal form of leftism is also ascendant there. (Both German and Swedish Greens are rather more liberal than the English Greens.)

  5. Keynes:

    “The Conservative belief that there is some law of nature which prevents men from being employed, that it is rash to employ men, and that it is financially “sound” to maintain a tenth of the population in idleness for an indefinite period, is crazily improbable—the sort of thing which no man could believe who had not had his head fuddled with nonsense for years… Our main task, therefore, will be to confirm the reader’s instinct that what seems sensible is sensible, and what seems nonsense is nonsense. We shall try to show him that the conclusion, that if new forms of employment are offered more men will be employed, is as obvious as it sounds and contains no hidden snags; that to set unemployed men to work on useful tasks does what it appears to do, namely, increases the national wealth; and that the notion, that we shall, for intricate reasons, ruin ourselves financially if we use this means to increase our well-being, is what it looks like—a bogy.

  6. When a party is dragging out ‘Won’t somebody think of the children?!’ you know they’re losing the plot. And not before time, I might add.

    We need to reform student fees for the good of students. If universities’ easiest money comes from research, then on research they shall focus. If their money from teaching is meagre and difficult to come by, then teaching will suffer. So if students want universities which are successful at teaching, then we need to reward that success by letting them charge higher fees.

    The fact that I’m unlikely to get the kind of job I want if current funding arrangements perpetuate is, of course, neither here nor there. 😉

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